How do you find information about indigenous literature?

Start with the Library Catalogue
  • select the Browse alphabetically tab
  • choose subjects from the drop-down list
  • Type your keywords in the search bar

Selected works:

  • Black Words, White Page: Aboriginal Literature 1929-1988 by Adam Shoemaker. This award-winning study – the first comprehensive treatment of the nature and significance of Indigenous Australian literature – was based upon the author’s doctoral research at The Australian National University and was first published by UQP in 1989.
  • The Indigenous Literature of Australia: Milli Milli Wangka (1997) From the back cover: As well as telling the story of indigenous writing, Mudrooroo gives special attention to the major Aboriginal writers for the last thirty years...The book takes strong positions of many of the controveries of the day: What is indigenous writing? What is an indigenous writer? How should indigenous books be published and edited?

Where can you find information in our online databases?

Find these databases in the National Library's eResources

AustLit: the resource for Australian literature is a key resource for this topic.

  • Select the Research tab at the top of the page
  • Scroll down to find Blackwords

Blackwords contains biographical, bibliographical and full text material relating to Australian Indigenous cultures, covering all forms of creative writing, film, television, criticism and scholarship.

Oxford Reference online: Use this encyclopedia for biographical and bibliographical information about well-known indigenous authors - just search for names (e.g. Sally Morgan, Kath Walker). The database includes the references:
  • The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature
  • The Oxford Companion to Australian History
  • A Dictionary of Writers and their Works

If you are a registered member of the National Library you can access these databases from home.

Case Study

The Ngunnawal people and their dreamtime stories

I am a teacher looking for books on the Ngunnawal people and their dreamtime stories for a class project. Where can I find stories suitable for lower secondary students?

1. Starting with the National Library Catalogue, we can find Stories of the Ngunnawal by Carl Brown, a book of seven stories by Ngunnawal Elders living in the ACT area. This book gives some history of the Ngunnawal, told in the first person by the elders. 

2. Using an AustLit search with 'Ngunnawal' as a keyword, we can find several items. Under the 'Filter works' menu, we can select 'Genre', then 'indigenous story'. Some possible items are shown:

  • The Swan, a picture book for children by Don Bell, a Ngunawal Dreaming story that explains the creation of the white swan to distinguish the greedy large black swan
  • Dyirri the Frog, a picture book for children by Don Bell, the Ngunawal Dreamtime story of the creation of the Corroboree Frog.
  • Mununja the butterfly : a Ngunawal Aboriginal story as told by Ngunawal elder Don Bell, a picture book
  • How water leaves the lake by Don Bell, a Ngunnawal myth about Ngungara, known as Lake George. This is listed as a short story which appears in There is no Mystery! : An Artistic Response to Weereewa / Lake George 1999 (pp.26-28)

While these stories may not all be suitable for the age group, they could be a good starting point.

3. There are also some other items of interest found in AustLit:

  • Hongyong's story, by Sharon Payne; excerpts from the story of Hongyong, a Ngunnawal warrior. This is a short story which appears in Talking Ink from Ochre 2002. (pp.96-102)
  • Queen of Ngunawal by Don Bell, in There is no Mystery! : An Artistic Response to Weereewa / Lake George 1999 (pp.45-46) 

All these items can be found in the National Library and are listed at other Australian libraries on Trove.